Sunday, June 6, 2010

USAir crew needs to learn about how to say "Yes"


I tend to fly a lot.   I'm not George Clooney by any stretch, but I find myself on planes frequently.  I've had some pretty boring flights, and some good ones.   The memorable ones tend to be either really good, or really bad.   The stewardess on a flight from Chicago to DC who was cracking jokes with such a dry wit most of us didn't even notice at first was a memorable,

And then there was the miserable experience from Las Vegas home to DC.

The flight itself wasn't that bad.   While we pushed back from the gate on time (so the airline could get it's on time score) we sat on the ground for 30 minutes waiting on weather to clear in DC.  There was a lot of turbulence, and so it wasn't a particularly comfortable ride.

These little details weren't what made it painful.   I almost expect that as I fly.

What made it painful was how often the stewardess, the one who used the microphone the most, communicated with us.

I can't remember how often I was told "No" on this flight.

It started with her announcement of the delay, which went something like this.

"As the captain has indicated, we'll be on the ground a bit now.  We won't be serving any beverage service as we wait for clearance."

Ok, sure, but probably better ways to tell us this.

After the regular beverage service, which I admit I didn't pay much attention to, she announced a second service.

"We'll be coming through the cabin, offering coffee and water.  The water has no ice.   If you want anything else, we aren't offering it.  We have coffee and water with no ice."

Here's where I started noticing the trend.   Everything was "No."  I wasn't alone.  The girl next to me started snickering too, and I asked her, and she agreed -- this crew was surly, and it was about what we didn't get.

The plane had some considerable turbulence on the flight.   As you might expect, our negative nelly made sure to tell us.

"There is no standing in the aisle when the captain has the fasten seatbelt sign on.  Do not stand in the aisle."

Yes, this is a safety issue.   As I'm getting to... there's a better way to say this.

The best part, however, was about 30 minutes from landing in Washington's Reagan National Airport.  Now, DCA was the last airport to reopen after 9/11, and has notably had some different security rules.  In the past.    Her announcement.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are now 40 minutes away from landing.   Due to federal regulations, all passengers must be in their seats 30 minutes from landing at DCA.  This means you won't be able to go to the bathroom or stand up.   You cannot go to the bathroom.   If you need to go, go now.  You won't be able to get up again."

She actually counted down.

"You now have 8 minutes to go to the bathroom.  You won't be able to do after this.   There is NO going to the bathroom in 8 minutes."

The passengers were starting to snicker, but notably, those of us who fly regularly, were getting angry -- you could tell.

She then announced "It's now 30 minutes from landing.  There is no getting up."

The landing was relatively quiet, and no one did get up.   The crew was in their seats early due to the turbulence, and we landed and disembarked.

I was pretty sure the regulation she was citing was outdated, and sure enough, I was right.

Not only is it outdated, it's five (5!) years out of date.   She's not only wrong, but she communicated everything in a negative tone.  As I discussed with several passengers while standing in line at that 8 minute mark, everything was no.  Let's try how she COULD have said things.
When on the ground: ""As the captain has indicated, we'll be on the ground a bit now.  We'll do our best if you need anything as we wait for clearance."

For the second service, she could have just said they had water and coffee.  Why the need to tell us what she didn't have -- the ice?

For the turbulence: "Ladies and gentlemen, for your own safety, when the fasten seatbelt sign is on, please stay in your seats.   We want you safe, and the unexpected cabin movement could be very painful. "
Notice the trend so far?
There's a huge customer service difference between being positive and being negative.  On US Airways Flight 49 from LAS to DCA on June 3, the crew chose to be negative.    It's a shame.  It leaves a very bad impression.



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